BOOK LIST:

Best of 2023: Non-Fiction

Updated: January 17, 2024

The best books of the year, as selected by Los Angeles Public Library staff. For more adult book lists and featured book reviews, check LAPL Reads.


Book cover of Asada : the art of Mexican-style grilling
Asada: The Art of Mexican-style Grilling
Lopez, Bricia
Call Number: 641.76 L864

The authors state, "Carne asada is not just a taco... in millions of backyards across Southern California, asada means family, friends, memories, great music, cold drinks, good times, and the community you’ve built." Their richly illustrated and informative book is more than abundant proof of those ideas.


Book cover of Becoming the ex-wife : the unconventional life and forgotten writings of Ursula Parrott
Becoming the ex-wife : the unconventional life and forgotten writings of Ursula Parrott
Gordon, Marsha, 1971-
Call Number: 813 P263Go

With this deeply researched labor of love, author Marsha Gordon re-introduces the world to Ursula Parrott, one of the Jazz Age's most celebrated authors whose prolific body of work is almost entirely out of print. Gordon examines how Parrott's life influenced her art, which often explored gender inequality, and reasons why a one-time notable literary figure could fall into complete obscurity. 


Book cover of Being Henry : the Fonz . . . and beyond
Being Henry : the Fonz . . . and beyond
Winkler, Henry, 1945-
Call Number: 812.092 W775-2

Henry Winkler has worked as an actor, director, producer, and is the author of several series of children’s books. Now, with Being Henry, Winkler tells his own story, sometimes with the assistance of his long-time wife Stacey, and it is a fascinating read, filled with memories, nostalgia, keen observations, and a bit of well-earned wisdom. 


Book cover of The Black Angels : the untold story of the nurses who helped cure tuberculosis
The Black Angels : the untold story of the nurses who helped cure tuberculosis
Smilios, Maria
Call Number: 616.009 S641

Covering the Great Depression through World War II, this history documents the contributions made by Black nurses, who risked their lives in helping to combat tuberculosis. 

 

Book cover of Brave the wild river : the untold story of two women who mapped the botany of the grand canyon
Brave the wild river : the untold story of two women who mapped the botany of the grand canyon
Sevigny, Melissa L., 1986-
Call Number: 979.11 G751Se

In 1938 two botanists, Elzada Clover and Lois Jotter, joined a group of river runners in order to chart the then unknown plants of the Grand Canyon. In addition to the wild and dangerous Colorado River, there were additional challenges for the two botanists.


Book cover of Camera girl : the coming of age of Jackie Bouvier Kennedy
Camera girl : the coming of age of Jackie Bouvier Kennedy
Anthony, Carl Sferrazza
Call Number: 92 O575An-1

In a 1972 interview, Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis said, “People often forget that I was Jacqueline Bouvier, before being Mrs. Kennedy or Mrs. Onassis. Throughout my life I have tried to remain true to myself.” As revealed in this new biography, she was precocious, curious, strong-willed, and a brilliant student who could have had a career as a journalist or writer. Anthony's meticulous research and analysis covers her early years and wedding to then Senator John F. Kennedy.

 

 


Book cover of Doppelganger : a trip into the mirror world
Doppelganger : a trip into the mirror world
Klein, Naomi, 1970-
Call Number: 126 K64

Progressive activist Naomi Klein examines her relationship with her mass media double, Naomi Wolf, in this lively memoir. While Klein and Wolf were once ideological allies on the left--Jewish feminists who were occasionally mistaken for each other--Wolf has become a COVID denialist and conservative gadfly in recent years. Klein uses the discovery that she has a doppelganger to delve into the use of doppelgangers in Western culture and immerse herself in the rhetoric of the alt-right, which tries to co-opt leftist tropes for political advantage. 


Book cover of The education of Kendrick Perkins
The education of Kendrick Perkins
Perkins, Kendrick, 1984-
Call Number: 796.252 P449

Former NBA Champion and current ESPN commentator Kendrick Perkins reflects on his childhood in Texas, his long NBA career and growth as a man and player. As he chronicles his journey he intersperses his story with reflections: as a Black man, teammate, husband and father. With thoughtful and candid insights into his views concerning African-American history, the civil rights movement and Black Lives Matter movement, Perkins's voice is familiar from his bombastic on-air persona. There is also a surprisingly restrained and contemplative person who guides us through his engrossing and entertaining journey to the present.


Book cover of Empress of the Nile : the daredevil archaeologist who saved Egypt's ancient temples from destruction
Empress of the Nile : the daredevil archaeologist who saved Egypt's ancient temples from destruction
Olson, Lynne
Call Number: 932 O51

Christiane Desroches-Noblecourt was born in Paris, France, November 17, 1913. Her lifelong passion for Egypt began as a toddler and led to her becoming the world’s leading expert on ancient Egypt. In a male dominated profession, she overcame misogyny, and said, "You don’t get anywhere without a fight, you know. I never looked for the fight. If I became a brawler, it was out of necessity." She led expeditions that uncovered, preserved and saved major Egyptian antiquities, including the Abu Simbel Temples.

 

Book cover for The exceptions : Nancy Hopkins, MIT, and the fight for women in science
The exceptions : Nancy Hopkins, MIT, and the fight for women in science
Zernike, Kate
Call Number: 509.73 Z58

In 1999, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) admitted that it had discriminated against senior women faculty, at all levels. Sixteen women, each of whom thought they were the exception to unfair treatment, came together to realize that each of them had been treated unfairly. 

 

Book cover of A fever in the heartland
A Fever in the Heartland
Egan, Timothy
Call Number: 366.97 E28

The Ku Klux Klan is not just a racist, fascist organization. It was also a successful money-making scam. There was a lot of violence and terror about the Klan's activities in the 1920s, but there were heroes, too. One person in particular, Madge Oberholtzer, was exceptionally brave in telling the truth about the Klan's activities.


Book cover of First to the front : the untold story of Dickey Chapelle, trailblazing female war correspondent
First to the front : the untold story of Dickey Chapelle, trailblazing female war correspondent
Rinehart, Lorissa
Call Number: 071.092 C462Ri

As a groundbreaking female photo-journalist she was often in places where she was not permitted, but she got there anyway: with the U.S. military fighting battles in the Pacific; with the South Vietnamese Army on the Ho Chi Minh Trail; in the Sierra Maestra Mountains with a Fidel Castro; with the Algerian National Liberation Front. In 1965 she was the first female journalist killed reporting on combat.

 

Book cover of George : a magpie memoir
George : a magpie memoir
Hughes, Frieda
Call Number: 598.864 H893

Caring for a wild injured magpie dramatically changes the life of painter, poet and literary critic Frieda Hughes.

 

Book cover for How to be Perfect: The Correct Answer to Every Moral Question
How to be Perfect: The Correct Answer to Every Moral Question
Schur, Michael
Call Number: 817 S394

A survey of what philosophers have said about living a moral life. The book is light, breezy, aimed at the layperson as it explores the way a variety of different philosophical schools approach the question of “being good.” Aristotle, Kant, the Utilitarians, the Existentialists, the African concept of ubuntu, all take stabs at laying out the framework that will help the individual live the best, most ethical life.


Book cover of Mayumu : Filipino American desserts remixed
Mayumu: Filipino American Desserts Remixed
Balingit, Abi
Call Number: 641.8 B186

A unique dessert book and memoir by Abi Balingit, whose food blog, The Dusky Kitchen, started it all.


Book cover of More numbers every day
More Numbers Every Day
Dahlén, Micael
Call Number: 511.1 D131

An exploration of the omnipresence of numbers in our daily life and the ways in which they can both be useful and extremely unhelpful. They include prescriptive lists of steps to help keep your relationships with numbers healthy. The authors point out areas where our minds are programmed to react to numbers in unexpected ways which is helpful for those striving to live a balanced, uninfluenced life.


Book cover of On the curry trail : chasing the flavor that seduced the world : in 50 recipes
On the Curry Trail: Chasing the Flavor That Seduced the World: In 50 Recipes
Iyer, Raghavan
Call Number: 641.6384 I97

Curry powders, pastes and recipes are found all over the globe, as evidenced in four of the book’s chapters (Asia; Africa & The Middle East; Europe & Oceania; The Americas), and the author explains all the complexities about curry and curried foods.

 

Book cover of Once upon a tome : the misadventures of a rare bookseller
Once upon a tome : the misadventures of a rare bookseller
Darkshire, Oliver
Call Number: 085.442 D219

Sotheran’s is a rare book store in London, established in 1761. It has more charm, quirk, and eccentricity than any place has the right to. Learn all about Sotheran’s and the odd book vendors and customers who’ve called it home.

 

Book cover of Oscar wars : a history of Hollywood in gold, sweat, and tears
Oscar wars : a history of Hollywood in gold, sweat, and tears
Schulman, Michael
Call Number: 791.02 S914

Schulman covers all the major scandals in the history of the Academy Awards, from the award's inception to Will Smith's slap of Chris Rock in 2022. Some of the more entertaining chapters cover the feud between sisters Joan Fontaine and Olivia de Havilland; the campaign by William Randolph Hearst to torpedo Citizen Kane's Oscar chances; and the ill-advised Snow White opening musical number for the 1989 ceremony, dubbed "the worst Oscars ever." In recent years, the Academy's membership has rapidly diversified to counteract the "Oscars So White" controversy; and in 2015, not a single acting nominee was a person of color.

 

Book cover of Paradise now : the extraordinary life of Karl Lagerfeld
Paradise now : the extraordinary life of Karl Lagerfeld
Middleton, William, 1802-
Call Number: 746.52 L174Mi

Best known as an haute couture fashion designer, but his interests and contributions included: photography, graphic design, fine book publishing (with Gerhard Steidl), book collecting, film making, interior design, and the extravagant fashion shows that required the work of skilled artists and craftspeople (carpenters, landscapists, flower designers, painters, sculptors, engineers).

 

Book cover of Raw dog : the naked truth about hot dogs
Raw dog : the naked truth about hot dogs
Loftus, Jamie
Call Number: 641.66 L829

A travelogue full of hot dog critiques and local history, Raw Dog is funny, well researched, and at times, embarrassingly intimate. The brutality of both economics and the meat industry are considered alongside the author’s honest, nostalgic joy in the first bite of a hot dog. 


Book cover of Ringmaster : Vince McMahon and the unmaking of America
Ringmaster : Vince McMahon and the unmaking of America
Riesman, Abraham
Call Number: 796.35092 M167Ri

In this engaging portrait, Reisman explores the rise of Vince McMahon, an extremely complex man who overcame troubled beginnings and went on to completely disrupt the landscape of professional wresting and launch it into the mainstream. Leaving many broken careers (and bones) in his wake, McMahon's WWE empire would eventually lead him to become the confident of an American President. 


Book cover of The sisterhood : the secret history of women at the CIA
The sisterhood : the secret history of women at the CIA
Mundy, Liza, 1960-
Call Number: 351.7409 M965

During World War II women took jobs that would have been held by men drafted to the military, including spycraft. Afterwards,with the creation of the CIA, life changed for everyone. A comprehensive history of the innovations and contributions made by women, at all levels in the CIA, and how they circumvented barriers to advanced job opportunities.

 

Book cover of Undaunted : how women changed American journalism
Undaunted : how women changed American journalism
Kroeger, Brooke, 1949-
Call Number: 071.09 K93

A history of American women journalists from 1840 to the present, documenting how women overcame obstacles to their engaging in this most vital profession.  Among those covered are: Nellie Bly, Ida Tarbell, and Ida B. Wells, Brooke Kroeger,Martha Gellhorn, Rachel Carson, Janet Malcolm, Joan Didion, Cokie Roberts, and Charlayne Hunter-Gault.

 

Book cover of Who cares : the hidden crisis of caregiving, and how we solve it
Who Cares: The Hidden Crisis of Caregiving, and How We Solve It
Kenway, Emily
Call Number: 649.8 K37

The author focuses on the onerous responsibility of caring for others that is mostly taken on by women. Even in countries where financial and actual assistance is provided to those who need help in caring for others, the emotional and psychological burdens are great.


Book cover of Wild girls : how the outdoors shaped the women who challenged a nation
Wild girls : how the outdoors shaped the women who challenged a nation
Miles, Tiya, 1970-
Call Number: 301.412973 M643

Lyrical and insightful, this is an examination of how interacting with nature, being outdoors has helped shape and influence the lives of many women: Harriet Tubman, Grace Lee Boggs, Dolores Huerta and others.

 

Book cover of The World Central Kitchen cookbook : feeding humanity, feeding hope
The World Central Kitchen Cookbook: Feeding Humanity, Feeding Hope
Andrés, José
Call Number: 641.59 A561

The first cookbook from World Central Kitchen, aka WCK. The organization was the inspiration of José Andrés, a professional chef and humanitarian. "Since 2010, World Central Kitchen has cooked hundreds of millions of fresh, nourishing meals for people impacted by natural disasters and other crises. WCK shares recipes inspired by many places and captivating narratives from chefs, volunteers, and the incredible communities they've met and worked with along the way. Chefs from around the world, community activists, long-time WKC team members, and even a first lady and a duchess offer recipes and perspectives that celebrate the dignity, perseverance, and unending depth of the human spirit."


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